New plans are currently afoot in the United States to aggressively combat smoking.
A plan launched this month by the Food and Drug and Administration (FDA) will see nicotine levels in cigarettes reduced to virtually non-existent levels. The end goal would be to have cigarettes eventually deliver such low levels of nicotine that they are no longer addictive.
Smoking rates have plunged in North America over the past decade, with Statistics Canada indicating last year that roughly 17.7 percent of Canadians aged 12 or older (approximately 5.3 million people) smoked either daily or occasionally in 2015. That number was down slightly from 18.1 percent the previous year, and substantially from 26 percent in 2001.
In the US, the most recent figures peg the number of adult smokers at 15 percent, an all-time low. However, smoking is still the leading cause of death in the United States. It’s estimated that one in five deaths in the US can be directly attributed to smoking, and the FDA is hoping their plan can put an end to smoking and help prevent 8 million deaths.
The FDA’s new plan is actually two-fold.
Last July, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced their aim was not just to reduce nicotine amounts to non-addictive levels but also to help foster development of lower risk alternatives to smoking.
With so much at stake, global tobacco giant Philip Morris are attempting to seize the opportunity to gain control of the market among those lower risk alternatives. To that end, the company has come up with their new nicotine delivery system iQOS.
The product looks similar to an e-cigarette or vape pen but it doesn’t vaporize nicotine-laced liquid like they do. The iQOS uses real tobacco, heated but not burned.
According to Philip Morris, the iQOS has up to 95 percent fewer harmful chemicals than a traditional cigarette. The hope is that smokers will be won over by the fact that it contains real tobacco and not a liquid.
The product hit stores last year but Phillips Morris’s request to allow them to carry modified warnings claiming they are less risky than cigarettes has yet to be approved.
The FDA is currently weighing their options in the United States but here in Canada, not everyone’s buying in. The tobacco industry has a long history of making health claims about cigarettes that turned out to be woefully inaccurate.
The Canadian Cancer Society said the public has every reason to be suspicious of the company’s true intentions.
The Non-Smokers Rights Association has said there’s simply no evidence that the iQOS is any safer than traditional cigarettes. Even if they are 95 percent safer, the organization said that still leaves a considerable amount of unnecessary deaths that will still be linked to tobacco.